Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

Marcos wants creation of PNP legal body to defend cops vs cases

Jairo Bolledo

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Marcos wants creation of PNP legal body to defend cops vs cases

CHIEF EXECUTIVE. President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. meets with PNP officers on Tuesday, June 4, 2024.

Philippine National Police

A similar program, which sought to provide legal service to the PNP, was already recommended during the previous administration

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. wants to create a legal department within the Philippine National Police (PNP) to provide easy access to the police when they are faced with complaints.

We’ll create an office, the legal office within the PNP who will be the defense council of any policeman who is charged with whatever complaint, crime. Mayroon at mayroon silang tatakbuhan kaagad na abogado just to give them advice and it will be internal, so hindi na sila magbayad,” Marcos said during his command conference with the PNP in Camp Crame earlier this week. (This is so they would have a lawyer to advice them and because it will be internal, they won’t have to pay.)

Pag-aralan natin nang mabuti because ginagawang weapon, wine-weaponize ‘yong kaso. So, kapag nahuli ‘yong kriminal, huling-huli na, pero magaling abogado, tapos walang kalaban-laban naman ‘yong ating pulis,” he added.  

(We will study this carefully because cases against the police are being weaponized. When a criminal is arrested with solid grounds, but his/her lawyer is really competent, our cops become defenseless.)

In the conference, where he met with PNP officers to discuss the peace and order situation in the country, Marcos said this “kind of protection” is needed to give cops the confidence to do their jobs. Marcos noted that some police officers and personnel face complaints because of “powerful figures.”

Even before Marcos’ suggestion, the PNP already had a legal service in place currently led by Police Brigadier General Arthur Llamas. According to the PNP legal service’s website, it has a “Panyerong Pulis @ Ur Serbis 24/7” which provides “on the spot legal assistance exclusively to PNP personnel in need of immediate legal consultation through multimedia modes of communication such as internet, facsimile, landline, and cellular phones.”

The legal queries can range from operational concerns, and even criminal and civil procedures. Through this PNP’s already existing program, cops can seek “immediate, reliable, and credible legal advice response from a lawyer who is also a PNP officer.” Aside from cops, their dependents can also seek legal advice “on matters relative to the administration and operation of the PNP.”

For the longest time, PNP officers and personnel facing complaints have had the option to choose what kind of lawyer they want to represent them. If the cops are indigent, they can be represented by counsels from the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO). Aside from free legal consultation, the PNP legal service can also represent cops in cases. Police officers and personnel can also hire private lawyers.

Why the need for it?

Every person – even the police – has the right to accessible justice and be represented in cases.

Carlos Conde, senior researcher of Human Rights Watch (HRW), reiterated that there are already existing mechanisms to provide legal services to cops who need them. But Conde said Marcos’ statement sent “the wrong message.”

“Instead of creating this legal department to give what amounts to special treatment for police officers, he should actively seek to make sure that victims of police violence, of police misconduct, particularly those victims in the drug war, are given the same,” Conde told Rappler. “In fact, they deserve that kind of attention from the President, even more so, because they are victims.”

Conde added that Marcos needs to have an equal view on how to solve access to justice in the Philippines.

“Correct me if I’m wrong, but I haven’t seen him or heard of him saying the same thing to victims of police violence, of police misconduct, of the victims of the drug war perpetrated by law enforcers since he became president,” the HRW senior researcher said.

“This just communicates to the public that he cares more for police officers who are implicated in his abuses than those Filipinos who deserve more protection from him. So this is really, really concerning,” he added.

A similar program, which sought to provide legal service to the PNP, was already recommended during the previous administration. In his last State of the Nation Address in 2021, former president Rodrigo Duterte said he wanted a law that provides free legal aid to cops and soldiers charged for abuses.

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Duterte wants law giving free legal help to cops, soldiers charged for abuses

Duterte wants law giving free legal help to cops, soldiers charged for abuses

Former Supreme Court spokesperson and lawyer from the Free Legal Assistance Group Ted Te said in 2021 that a law cannot be passed to require lawyers to render free legal assistance to law enforcers, adding that there’s already PAO that provides free legal services.

In the same year, representatives from PAO, Office of the Solicitor General, and Integrated Bar of the Philippines said they support the “general principle,” but suggested improving the legal offices of their agencies instead.

Gabriela Representative Arlene Brosas had opposed the suggestion, calling it “special privilege” for the uniformed personnel. Several bills were passed to realize Duterte’s plans of extending free legal assistance to cops, but the bills never became law.– Rappler.com

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Jairo Bolledo

Jairo Bolledo is a multimedia reporter at Rappler covering justice, police, and crime.